4 lessons Disney can teach healthcare leaders

Ten years after the publication of Fred Lee's "If Disney Ran Your Hospital: 9 ½ Things You Would Do Differently," Disney still offers numerous insights into how hospital leaders can enhance patient experience, according to an article on ePatientExperience.com. These lessons include:

  1. Transition to digital: In contrast to the paper tickets it once used, Disney now uses radio-frequency identification-enabled "MagicBands" for park admission, hotel room keys, and personal and credit card information, according to the article. The same principle could be applied to patient ID bracelets, the article suggests. Reliable patient identification methods are critical for hospitals, particularly during an unexpected event like the Boston Marathon bombing.

  2. Personalized profiles: Disney park guests customize a profile with their birthday, name and favorite character so that the park can notify employees portraying the character before a meet-and-greet. Healthcare leaders should ask themselves "[W]hat little personal details could you collect from your patients that nurses and other staff could use in their daily interactions to make the care feel more personal?" according to the article. Similarly, research indicates that, like children at Disney World, patients benefit when they get providers' undivided attention.

  3. Advanced online planning: Disney's "My Disney Experience" app allows families to plan trips in advance by researching their options and scheduling meals, rides, parades and character greetings. "Customers demand this kind of convenience and control in all kinds of industries already, and are looking to healthcare providers to meet them where they are," the article states. 

  4. Collaboration: Healthcare leaders should take inspiration from Disney's online programs, which help families share appointments, reminders and photos. "If your current program is not involving family caregivers in the experience you are missing out on a key opportunity to help patients succeed," the article states.

To imitate Disney's successes, hospital leaders must engage patients on a personal level, not just as consumers, Lee told the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives last year. "A service of courtesy is not enough in our business if we are not also meeting people's emotional needs," he said.

To learn more:
- read the article